A former New Tribes Mission missionary, Warren Scott Kennell was sentenced to 58 years in prison January 28, for taking pornographic photographs of tribal children in the Brazilian Amazon, Reuters is reporting.
According to a statement from the United States Attorney’s Office in Tampa, Florida, Kennell, 45, had pled guilty in September to two charges of producing child pornography between 2008 and 2011.
After investigators found 940 pornographic images on an external hard drive in his luggage during a search last May at the Orlando International Airport, Kennell admitted that he had sexually abused children while in Brazil and that he had taken pornographic pictures of them.
The child victims are members of an indigenous tribe in the Amazon, where Kennell was setting up a church for the New Tribes Ministry.
“Kennell represents the worst kind of criminal – one that preys on innocent children,” Shane Folden, deputy special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations Tampa said in the statement.
New Tribes Mission, located near Orlando, Florida, identifies itself on its website as an evangelical Christian ministry focused on planting new churches among indigenous tribes, which it describes as isolated from the Bible because of language and culture, Reuters reports.
The site refers to Indigenous Peoples as “people groups.”
Orlando Click reported last June that Pam McCurdy, a spokeswoman for New Tribes Mission, issued a statement shortly after Kennell’s arrest to fellow members saying:
"We don’t have all of the facts yet, but wanted to update you on a situation. A member from Illinois, who served in Brazil, was arrested Friday. As you can imagine, we are heartsick at the thought that children have been victimized. While we are trying to confirm whether there is a connection between the personal actions of the accused and our organization, we have put the accused on immediate leave. We intend to cooperate fully with authorities and are grateful to them for reaching beyond U.S. borders to identify and stop abusers. It has been frustrating in years past that this was not always possible. The protection of children is of vital importance to us. Please pray.”
“We are heartsick,” McCurdy said to Reuters in an email.